Author Jim Stovall has been a national champion Olympic weightlifter and is president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network. A highly sought after motivational speaker, Jim has written more than thirty books including the bestseller The Ultimate Gift, which became a major motion picture in 2006 starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin. Steve Forbes, president and CEO of Forbes Magazine, describes Stovall as "one of the most extraordinary men of our era."
For our most recent Polycom Special Event, we connected 395 students with Jim Stovall for a Polycom Special Event Q&A session. During the video meeting, Jim answered more than 65 questions for the students who were based in 12 different sites from across the US and Canada. Not a bad days work for educators!!
Mr. Stovall has participated in Polycom's Special Events series each year since 2008. This year, in addition to doing a Q&A with the students, Stovall also spoke with me one-on-one about his experiences. Here is what he had to say:
Q: Jim, you've been doing Special Events with Polycom for a number of years. I know firsthand some of the impact you have had on your audience. Does it work the other way? How have the Special Events touched you?
A: Doing the Polycom events over the years has greatly impacted me as I have had a chance to learn what the students are thinking and doing. The students are from all different parts of the country and different backgrounds. To see how they each internalize the story of The Ultimate Gift based on their own life experiences has been powerful. Probably the largest impact on me, personally, has been to see how students individually and collectively have taken it upon themselves to live out the messages in my novel. There are examples of penny drives, fundraising efforts, and work projects within their own communities. It’s one thing to make up a story with a message, like I do, but it’s quite another thing to watch students bring your words to life.
Q: When someone speaks to me of an "accomplished individual," your name always comes to my mind. Looking at your many accomplishments -- and the obstacles overcome to get there -- can you pick one achievement that gives you the most satisfaction?
A: As you know, I have the privilege of doing a lot of things in my professional life. I am an executive, business owner, author, speaker, movie maker, and columnist. While it might seem like these are all diverse activities, in reality, I am simply in the message business, and all of these activities are simply different avenues to deliver the message. When I think of my life in this way, the things I am most proud of are the times I can have the greatest impact with my message. Considering the age of the young students involved in your Polycom events, this represents one of the greatest impacts that I can imagine. When we can teach one person, we change their life, but when we can teach people to teach, we change the world.
Q: What advice would you like to share with our readers as they go into 2015?
A: 2015, like every New Year, gives us the opportunity to observe where we’ve been, consider where we are, and imagine where we’re going. In reality, this can be done any day of the year, but somehow, when the calendar turns over a new year, it offers a special time of reflection. As I imagine 2015, I think of the fragile state of the world. We cannot take peace, prosperity, health, or any of the other great things in life for granted. We are communicating around the globe faster than ever before, but this requires us to approach one another with understanding and tolerance. The young people who participate in The Ultimate Gift Polycom events will live in a different world than their teachers and parents have experienced. Twenty-first Century young people will communicate globally, travel extensively, and both work and play cross-culturally. Many of the problems their parents and grandparents faced will be solved, but in solving those problems new challenges will arise. Ideally, through technology like Polycom and messages like The Ultimate Gift, young people will utilize 21st Century innovation to learn the best of 19th and 20th Century values and principles. I am still convinced that the best is yet to come.
Mr. Stovall it has truly been an honor to work with you in bringing delight and enthusiasm for learning to so many young people.